Lunch With an Old Friend

halfdomeYesterday, I had lunch with a friend from Bible college that I had not seen for over 20 years. I met him and his oldest son Luke at the California Pizza Kitchen in Arcadia. We caught up on our lives, they told me about their impressive trek up Half Dome in Yosemite. I love a view. They showed me the picture of the cables one has to climb to make it up the last 400 feet of the ascent. When I saw the picture of the incline, which looked to me about 80%, I thought, but did not say, “Ohhhh, shit!” Instead, I think I just said, “Wow, that looks scary!”
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I’m sure my friend, who is now the president of my Alma Mater, Ozark Christian College, and his son have both heard people use that word. When ranking expletives, I think it’s one of the more innocuous ones, right? Anyway, we had a nice lunch. It had been prompted by an email I wrote a few months ago. I won’t go into that here, but Matt had reached out to me then and a couple weeks ago, he sent me an email asking if I wanted to meet him for lunch since he was coming my way.

Matt and I worked together in recruitment at our college when we were students. It was a great job, mostly we just sat on the phone talking to kids we’d met at summer camps and youth rallies in our time at OCC. While it was a sales job of sorts, I loved it because, more than anything, we were talking to kids a couple of years younger than us, about what they thought God’s plan for their life was.

Yesterday, we reminisced. I asked him about his wife Katie, whom you might know, has had some health challenges in recent years. He asked about my parents. He asked about Eric. We talked about the Joplin tornado of 2011 and the way the community came together in the aftermath. We talked about my blog and my not always successful hope to be a bridge between the gay community and conservative Christian community. We talked about movies.

At the end of the meal, he told me that he would like to pray for me. Then he asked me if there was something specific I would like for him to pray for, he suggested my job hunt and what the future holds for me. I said I would appreciate that. He also asked if there was anything he could pray about for Eric and I immediately thought about Eric’s Dad and how losing him is still, naturally, a source of sadness and weight. So we bowed our heads, and Matt offered our burdens up to the Lord in prayer. We said our goodbyes. They were going to a movie. I had to go to my Italian market before I drove back to LA. Like I said, it was a nice lunch.

Later when I met friends for dinner, I told them about meeting with Matt, my former classmate, now the president of my college. When I told them about him asking what he could pray for, one friend asked if I felt like that was condescending. It had not occurred to me, but I pondered John’s question. Was it condescending? I don’t think so. If you are a Christian or believe in the power of prayer, there is no greater gift, saying, “God, this is someone you love, this is what he’s going through, please give him direction and comfort.” And I must say, it made me feel good that he asked to pray for Eric, too.

Is it possible that in his more private prayers, Matt has prayed for me to turn away from a homosexual lifestyle or return to the conservative Christian fold? Yes, it’s probably likely that that has been his prayer. If his Biblical interpretation is that homosexuality is a sin, his concern for me would mandate for him to pray for me in that way. I am sure he went into this lunch, not with an agenda, but a hope that I would somehow return to the faith of my youth. I had my own hopes going into the lunch as well. I hope that knowing a bit more about my story, he might have more compassion and understanding when he meets other gay people, that he might see the similarities before he sees the differences.

I keep thinking about that climb up Half Dome though. (And those cables!) When he showed me the picture of him and Luke, atop that crest, sky so blue, the surrounding mountains so majestic, I marvelled at the beauty of the planet. It’s hard not to think of a Creator when you see vistas like that. And in his way, Matt, by meeting me for lunch, breaking bread over barbecue pizza and a Thai chicken salad, was saying, I still want you to climb this mountain, I still want you to see this view.

Guest Blogger, Michael Patrick Gaffney: I Hadn’t Had a Bath in 20 Years!

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My friend and frequent guest blogger Michael had a medical emergency this week. I’ll let him tell you. But even before the situation passed, so to speak, I asked him if he might want to write about it. Tonight he sent me this. I do believe that when we are processing life’s challenges, it can help to sit down and write about it. And if we decide to share what we’ve written, who knows, it might help the people who read it too. I’m glad you are feeling better, my friend. You are loved!

“I Hadn’t Had a Bath In 20 Years!”

Like most people in the world today, I’m often stressed out and always carrying around a certain amount of anxiety. I’ve tried yoga and meditation but I just don’t have the patience, I guess. But I do find my peaceful place in walking. I love to walk! I just love it! I am a self-proclaimed Power Walker. I love to walk my dog, I love to walk to the store, but most of all I love to take long walks up into the canyon where I live. I call it my church. I love to power walk up to the top of the hill, with my arms swinging back and forth like Oprah as Sophia in “The Color Purple”, and look out and watch the hawks glide past me. Tuesday was a typical day on my power walk and just as I was about start my way down I felt a slight pain in my right testicle. Hmmm…Weird. 10 minutes down the hill I started to feel a shooting pain in the middle of my back. Ouch! Really weird…By the time I arrived home I was moaning and groaning, deciding if this warranted calling 911. Instead I called a neighbor and asked her if she would take me to the E.R. A drive that should have taken us 20 minutes took over an hour in rush hour traffic. I screamed and cried and prayed out load. I took my seatbelt off at one point and got on all fours in the front seat. I couldn’t stop moving. I was like a terrified Pekingese heading to the vet. Then the nausea started, “I think I’m going to be sick”, I screamed! We were at a dead stop so I opened the car door, but it was a false alarm. But now all the people in the cars around us knew there was drama going on and kept staring, waiting for me to blow!

When we finally pulled into the Emergency Room drop off point my neighbor stopped the car and I jumped out and power walked through the front doors. There were about 20 other people sitting in the waiting area waiting to be seen. I knew enough about how these places worked, that I knew I had to act fast and not hold anything back. “Um…Hello. I’m here. What do I do?! I’m in a lot of pain. Please help me, HELP MEEEEEEE!!!” I was spinning around in circles swinging my murse around me. I think somebody must have called a code: CRAZY, because the next thing I knew I was in a wheelchair sitting at a desk with a woman asking for my I.D. Just as I pulled it out, I announced to the entire ER, “I’m going to be sick!!!” Magically, a pink bucket appeared from under her desk and onto my lap. In between retching and heaving, I apologized to the entire room, “I’m sorry everybody, I’m so sorry!” I heard giggling from the peanut gallery but I didn’t have the strength nor the quick wit to deal with a heckler in the crowd, so I let it go. Next thing I know I’m in triage and I hear one of the nurses say, “We can smell a kidney stone a mile away.” A very handsome, blue-eyed nurse named Gary tells me he is giving me a drug called Dilaudid. I feel it hit me in the back of my neck and then BAM! “That’s a Lindsay Lohan cocktail”, I mumble. “Mikey likey!”

I am wheeled to another room, given an MRI, where they confirm that I have two kidney stones, one of which is trying to make its way through my ureter to my bladder. The other is a much larger stone waiting in the wings of my kidney. I am wheeled to yet another room and as the nurse leans over me checking my I.V. I notice her name tag, which reads, Stella. Given the fact I am an actor and that I am flying high on a powerful pain-killer seven times stronger than morphine I give her my best Marlon Brando, “STELLAAAAAAAAAA!!!!” She just gives me a knowing smile and goes about her business.

An hour or so later the pain has subsided dramatically and I am discharged with a couple of prescriptions and a strainer to pee through and sent on my way.

The next couple of days were filled with intermittent bouts of pain, nausea, constipation and vomiting from the pain meds. Being in that kind of pain was very lonely and isolating. It made me think about people who deal with chronic pain, people who suffer in silence on a daily basis and how lonely they most feel.

On Thursday night, a friend suggested I try a hot bath before bed. I hadn’t had a bath in 20 years! I’m a shower only kind of guy, but thought it was worth a shot. I filled the tub and put on my New Age Essentials channel on Pandora. I laid there in that hot water and thought about the last few days and what I had gone through. I felt like a little boy again, minus the Mr. Bubble. I felt so aware of my body and my breath. I was comforted by the warm water and my breathing. I had found my peaceful place again. I dried off and went straight to bed. The next thing I knew it was 6:03am and I went to use the bathroom, and without any bells and whistles or drumroll or pain even, out popped my kidney stone. It was about the size of a small black pepper kernel. That tiny little thing had caused so much pain and suffering and brought me to my knees.

Looking back on it all, I think that that hot bath was a turning point. It was such a moment of self-preservation and being totally aware of my body and what was happening and accepting the pain and truly surrendering.

I do feel a little like a ticking time bomb now with that other stone waiting for the perfect inopportune moment to escape my kidney and send me back to the emergency room. But until then I will continue to take my power walks and my new nightly hot baths to find my peaceful place. I might even pick up a box of Mr. Bubble.

Do You Miss New York?

layman-frishberg-splshI do like starting my day by learning something new. My friend Jerry posted on my Facebook wall what I thought was a poem by someone named Dave Frishberg. Full confession: with the exception of Richard Cory by Edward Arlington Robinson, I hate most poems. But I read the presumed poem, a longing missive about living and leaving and never really leaving New York. Of course, I loved it. Jerry posted it because I had reposted one of my blogs about how New York City invades my dreams often.

Jerry and I took improv classes together in the ’90s at a place called Gotham City Improv. Thanks to Facebook and a little luck, we are still in contact. He was one of the friends I wrote about in another post, “What’s on Your Napkin?” He lives in Ohio now, I live here. Reading Do You Miss New York? brought back memories of my time there, naturally, and days and evenings spent writing sketches and pretending to write sketches in 42nd Street diners and cramped Upper East Side apartments with Jerry, Rebecca and Maryanne were among those memories.

I had to look up this Dave Frishberg. He is an 81 year old jazz legend. Not a poem, Do You Miss New York? is actually a song, one of his most famous. His Wikipedia page listed several of his songs, many of which made me think, hey, I know that song, I just did not know who wrote it. Probably the coolest bit of trivia I uncovered was that he wrote the music and lyrics for a song I know QUITE well, I’m Just a Bill from Schoolhouse Rock! See, you’ve learned something new too now.

Anyway, thank you Jerry for opening my world up a little bit more. I have posted the link to a great video of Do You Miss New York?

And because it’s been awhile since I’ve heard it, I am also posting that ’70s classic, I’m Just a Bill. Dave Frishberg, wherever you are, you have a new fan. Actually not technically a new fan, I’ve loved your work since as long as I can remember.

SJP and Me

HT_sjp_vogue_interview_ml_130212_16x9_992If you’re one of those types who enjoys reading about the times I have embarrassed myself, you’re in luck. There is a little bit of that in this story. If you love reading about celebrities and how they behave in public, you’re also in luck. This story is about a famous person.

After working in restaurants in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles for over 20 years, I sometimes feel that I have seen it all. Nearly every famous person I have wanted to see, I have seen, usually in a restaurant setting. Also, many famous people I have no desire to see in person I have seen. I’ve become fans of people who I knew little about simply on the basis of the kindness they offered me or my co-workers. (Maxwell, are you reading this?) I have also stopped liking people, stopped going to their movies or watching their tv shows or downloading their music, in part, because of the way a particular interaction went. I don’t need to name names, I’ll wait until the next time I’m a little drunk or hopped up on Ambien to do that.

It was a Sunday morning, a couple of years ago. Fall of 2012, to be exact. I looked up from the host stand to see Sarah Jessica Parker, SJP herself, approaching me with a smile. Standing beside her friend, she asked if they could have a table outside, even though they were only planning to have coffees. I told her it was absolutely fine to just have drinks and I grabbed two menus and we headed to the patio, which I’ve mentioned before, is one of the most stunning views in Beverly Hills. It looks out on the Hollywood Hills and it is a beacon of possibility for anyone who has ever dined, or perhaps, more importantly, worked there. I don’t know how many times I looked up while taking a complicated order on Table 47 to see the vista, on a clear day it includes the Hollywood Sign, and think, there is always HOPE that this could one day be mine too.

On this Sunday morning, as we were walking to the table, SJP asked me, “You look very familiar, do we know each other?” “No, we’ve never met.” She told me that I had a particular look on my face when she approached and she wondered how she knew me. I told her that my look was, now, I can finally check her off my list of stars I’ve always wanted to see, but haven’t seen yet. (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd.) She told me that I reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t figure it out. To my minor credit, I refrained from telling her that sometimes, some people, tell me I remind them of her BFF Andy Cohen.

They landed at the table, I asked if they knew what they’d like to drink, and one of them ordered an iced tea, the other an iced latte.
I went into the waiter’s station, even though I was not waiting tables and started making the drinks. My good friend Kristin, whose table it was, told me she could make the drinks, since it was her table. I shooed her away with an unnecessarily terse, “I GOT it!” “But it’s my table!” (Kristin is one of those dramatic types.) I can’t remember how it went down, but I think I let her bring the drinks to the table. But there is a chance I did not let her.

In my 15 years that I worked at Barney Greengrass, there were certain stars that when they came in, it shifted the dynamic of the entire day. Everyone was suddenly a little happier because of their brush with something that felt magical. It could be said that it’s about fame, but I believe it goes deeper than that. I think it’s about seeing a person who on screen or in music or on stage or on paper has somehow lived your story or the story you wish you were living. And let’s be honest, they probably did it better and prettier and more stylishly dressed than you.

I checked in on SJP and her friend a little later. She asked if there was a possibility if I could do something to get them into the women’s shoe department before the store itself opened. I told her I would see what I could do. When I returned to tell her my manager was working on it, she again, asked me why I looked familiar to her. And in my defense, this WAS September or October of 2012. “Well, I have a Subway commercial running right now, maybe that’s it.” SJP paused. I looked at her friend who, understandably, rolled her eyes, un peu. Oh, God, Ray, you are an idiot, I thought. To make it worse, I mimed my action in the commercial, doing the $5 sub hand wave. “No, I don’t think that’s it.” Awkward moment. “But that’s great that you’re in a commercial.” It seemed like in that moment she was truly happy for me that I was in a (national, I might add) commercial, that she understood how hard of an industry this was. But still, I felt stupid, I should have played my cards a little closer to the vest. I should have just said, “I really don’t know why I look familiar, but I will definitely take it as a compliment.” My manager saved the day by coming to the table to tell the ladies that someone was waiting for them in women’s shoes. The ladies thanked both of us profusely. Not much later, they left, graciously thanking and saying good-bye to my manager and me, addressing us by our names. And though it’s a little indelicate to discuss such matters, they left their waitress Kristin a very generous tip.

I walked on cloud nine for the rest of the day. Kristin told me that I was in the wrong to not let her go to her table, I agreed. But nobody’s perfect. “Even Carrie and Miranda fought sometimes,” I told Kristin.

I’ve told the story of SJP and me probably over 100 times now, to anyone who will listen. If Eric had a dollar for every time he’s had to sit through one of my spirited retellings, we could buy a brownstone in Greenwich Village. It’s a story that stuck.

All my life, people have asked me why I work in restaurants. When are you going to grow up and get a real job? I don’t know. There are perks, for sure, I love food and love working in proximity to it. I love people who work in restaurants, those band of minstrels types. But, honestly, there is just something about that brush, since my second day of work at Popover Cafe, a handful of days after getting off a Greyhound from Kansas at Port Authority, when I waited on Andre Gregory and the person training me asked, “Do you know who that is? That’s the guy from My Dinner with Andre.” And I did know who it was, I had seen My Dinner with Andre on HBO.

Everyone is a commodity, especially in this social media culture. As I said earlier, there are actors and singers and writers that I will never want to personally make richer solely based on the treatment I received in the few minutes or, in some cases, hours, I spent with them. But as with SJP, there are those days, when you meet someone whose work you’ve always loved and they treat you like they are really taking you in, maybe complimenting the shirt you got from Land’s End or your Warby Parker glasses or the smile you got from your parents, and maybe you talk a little about plays or books or the best place in LA to get a mai-tai. Those days are the days. The brush. And it’s not about celebrity, not in any TMZ sort of way, anyway. It’s about one person saying to another person, “I see you.”

Guest Blogger, Theresa Barnhart: Aunt Ruth, A Beautiful Lady

Update-your-salonMy Mom called me this afternoon and told me she had been writing about my Great Aunt Ruth and her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She wondered if I might post what she wrote as a guest blog. Of course, I said yes. Although she does not write about it here, my Mom also worked at a nursing home for several years and she has always had a tender heart for those suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia. As she says, September 21st is World Alzheimer’s Day and I think we all know loved ones who are affected by it everyday. I’ve included a link to ALZinfo.org right here if you would like more information about the disease or what you could do to raise awareness or help others in need. My Mom’s words brought back many sweet memories when I read them tonight and she’s right, our Aunt Ruth was a beautiful lady.

Aunt Ruth, A Beautiful Lady!

This has been one of those weeks when I have been thinking of my Aunt Ruth and how this beautiful vivacious lady was robbed the last few years of her life by this disease known as Alzheimer’s. Early in the week, I started to receive a newsletter from the Kansas Association of Alzheimer’s. Mid week, I found Aunt Ruth’s memory card I received at her funeral. Then today, I saw on Facebook an article about Sunday, September 21,2014, being World Alzheimer’s Day. I thought maybe this came for a reason. Everyone forgets occasionally how to spell a word (I’m famous for that all the time) or forgets where the keys are, etc. I believe we all have memory loss now and then, but it’s more noticeable as we age. It doesn’t mean we are getting Alzheimer’s, but it is something to be aware of. Aunt Ruth was always a happy outgoing lady and I wondered, “How can this happen to a lady who has always put others before herself?” She was a beautican. Her salon was in her home. There she could take care of her family. When she started to cut back her work, she would still take those ladies who were more like old friends instead of clients. She even started picking up her clients who didn’t have a way to the shop and do their hair and then take them back to their home. Those ladies for various reasons could no longer drive. Now that’s service! That’s just how she was. She loved all those who entered her home and those who entered her shop. Everytime we would stop by to say hello she would greet us and always introduce us to whoever was there. So lovely and outgoing, you couldn’t help but feel the love she had for us as if we were the most important people in her life. The first time I came to Kansas with Ray to meet his parents and siblings he said he wanted to take me to Dewey to meet his uncle and aunt. It was well into the evening and Uncle Ken had a early morning flight so they went to bed earlier. I was sorry we got them out of bed but when they greeted me it was the nicest, sweetest moment as Aunt Ruth gave me hugs and let me know they were glad to meet me and, of course, see Ray. (He couldn’t do anything wrong by them.) It was love at first meeting. We were married two weeks later and came to Oklahoma and Ray got a job at Phillips 66 in Bartlesville. We moved to Bartleville. Uncle Ken and Aunt Ruth were just a few miles away so I was able to go see Aunt Ruth at the shop and spent part of the day with her. About once a week her mom would come in and visit and have her hair done. She was also a very sweet lady and I enjoyed visiting with her, too. You might say Aunt Ruth was her mother’s daughter. Aunt Ruth’s daughter too is like her mother. Phillips moved us to Kansas City then turned around and sent him back to Bartlesville for some training and he was there and I was in Overland Park with a baby about eight weeks old. We would go down to Dewey several times and Aunt Ruth opened her home and took me and Ray Jr. in. One time while we were there, Ray Jr. started crying and I couldn’t get him to stop. We checked him over making sure his diaper pins hadn’t opened. They didn’t use the tape on throw away diapers at that time. Anyway Uncle Ken took him in his arms and rocked him to sleep. I have so many beautiful memories of her. Even when she got to where she didn’t know us we could feel her love and we hoped, in her mind, she could feel our love. Even though she couldn’t remember us we could still remember her and love and cherish those momeries we made with her. As long as there is life, someone will remember and never forget. Pray one day there will be a cure for this devastating disease. It can take away a person’s mind, but there is always going to be someone who will remember. God blessed us with this beautiful lady. Before she passed, I whispered in her ear that I loved her and that I would see her again. I told Ray I thought she heard me. I will remember for you ’til someone remembers for me.

The Pink Tea Cup

052809PinkTeaCup17MS.jpgWhen I lived in New York, on my days off from work, I would sometimes go to the Jefferson Market Library in Greenwich Village, check out a few books, then wander somewhere around there for lunch. One of my favorite places to have lunch alone, just me and a book, was a soul food restaurant, a neighborhood staple, called The Pink Tea Cup. I ordered the same thing every time, a burger special that came with fresh cut fries, a slice of sweet potato pie, and a cup of coffee. I was usually one of only a few customers during the hour or so I’d sit and read my book and eat my meal. It was a cozy joint and I especially liked going in the winter. I remember one year that I did not think I would be able to fly home for Christmas, whether it was because of money or getting shifts covered or both, but at some point, the heavens parted and I was able to get a plane ticket and make arrangements. I celebrated by taking myself to a late lunch at The Pink Tea Cup. I could not help but be conscious of the color of my skin while I dined there, but there was something Southern and familiar and comfortable about the place. I sat and ate the home cooked meal and looked forward to the home cooked meals my Mother would have waiting for me when I made it to Kansas for the holidays.

I just finished reading Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone by James Baldwin. There was a section of the book where the protagonist, a successful African American actor named Leo Proudhammer, recalls working as a waiter in a Greenwich Village restaurant called The Island that sounded, if only to me, a bit like The Pink Tea Cup. Leo remembers serving Hopping John and chicken and ribs and I closed my eyes and saw all the action taking place at my old haunt, a place that still looked like 1968 even in 1993.

I am mostly drawn to James Baldwin for three reasons. He wrote often about New York, a city I love. He wrote about the Church, it’s complicated burdens and emancipations. And probably mostly, because he wrote about homosexuals, because he was one himself. I identify with James Baldwin.

This identification resonated even more in Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone because he wrote about acting, specifically his character’s technique and process and it gave me an idea what it must have been like to be an actor in the ’50s and ’60s New York, a time and place that produced some pretty exciting actors, not to mention writers.

There is a point in the novel where Leo’s estranged brother, a man who was falsely imprisoned in his youth but has become a minister, comes to visit him at The Island. He stays until the restaurant closes and the two brothers sit to share a meal, Leo drinking a tumbler of Chianti, Caleb, the elder, drinking coffee. Their conversation is tense in moments and tender in others. At one point, Caleb asks Leo, “What does an artist really do?” I’m editing for space. More than anything I just want you to pick up the book and read it yourself, but Leo tells Caleb that an artist creates things-paintings, books, poems, plays, music. Caleb then wants to know exactly what these arts do. Leo tells him, “They make you-feel more alive.” And then Leo thinks to himself that he doesn’t trust that answer. They talk more, Leo then says, “I think it-art-can make you less lonely.” But he doesn’t trust that answer either. And then finally he tells his brother, “Sometimes you read something- or you listen to music- I don’t know- and you find this man, who may have been a very unhappy man- and- a man you’ve never seen- well, he tells you something about your life. And it doesn’t seem as awful as it did before.”

Everytime I write about Baldwin, I feel a little foolish. What could a very white boy from Kansas have to offer when talking about one of the greatest African American writers in history? His experience was not my experience. It’s kind of ludicrous for me to say, “Oh I LOVE James Baldwin because he wrote about New York!” It sounds like I’m talking about Cindy Adams. But there is something about the way he wrote about New York and Evangelicalism and sexuality that drew me into his world, that captivated me. And once he had me, has me, for James Baldwin’s work is ongoing, by seeing how much we are alike, he also reminds me of how different we are. I learn from his experience; it’s my hope that reading about his specific African American experience makes me a more sympathetic, empathetic, knowledgeable person. I think there is, in his writing, an attempt to shame me for the wrongs my ancestors did, just as I think he tries to hurt his father, even though he loves him, for being cruel and abusive and embittered and drunk when Baldwin was a boy. Baldwin offers a knife in the side and then a blanket for comfort.

It’s no surprise, really, that I feel a pang of regret for saying that something in Baldwin’s writing intends to punish or wound me. While I am gay and have always felt like an outsider, the color of my skin, reminds me, how much of an outsider could I possibly be? I’m much more Barbara, the secondary character of Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, a white aspiring actress who fled Kentucky in hopes of making her way in New York City, who forges a life long intimate relationship with Leo Proudhammer. Leo’s love for her is visible and tenable, but in the 20 years of their friendship the novel spans, there are the knife and the blanket and neither are ever very far from each other.

I really don’t know where I am going with all of this. Baldwin raises more questions than he answers for me. But God, I love him. I love the way his stories burrow into me and I laugh and I weep and I think to myself, “This is MY STORY. He is telling my story.” And the ridiculousness of that statement doesn’t even occur to me until I am pages ahead.

Teenage Dream

brady2A friend of mine shared a video on Facebook of two little boys lip-syncing to a Katy Perry song. He captioned the video, “Honey, the gay babies.” I clicked to watch it and it appeared to be two little boys, perhaps in the Philippines, one in a dress and one in a bikini top and a towel wrapped around his hips like a long skirt. I’ve posted the video, you can see it here for yourself.

I watched it and I must admit, I had a complex reaction. Don’t get me wrong, I am rooting for these little boys. I want them to grow up to be fabulous and I believe that they will, but there was something, I’m not exactly sure what, that unsettled me.

The biggest night of my life, when I was 8, was going to be the little talent show, my cousin Susie and I were to put on in my living room for New Year’s Eve. I had a tape recording of The Brady Kids singing both It’s a Sunshine Day and Keep On. Susie and I had worked for days learning the songs, the choreography. On the afternoon before the show, Susie accidently taped over about 10 seconds of one of the songs. When I realized it, I became inconsolable. I really thought there were going to be talent scouts in our home in rural Kansas for the 8:45 New Year’s Eve show. Every one tried to calm me, it’s okay, it’s just a few seconds. But even then, I was easily crestfallen. Still the show did go on. After we returned from bacon-wrapped filet mignon dinners at the Whistle Stop restaurant, Independence’s fanciest steak house, Susie and I changed into our costumes and sang and danced our two songs. By then, something had been lost. There was polite applause from my parents and relatives, but I couldn’t hear it, I was still bereft. My odds of being in The New Mickey Mouse Club with Lisa Whelchel and Kelly Parsons were slim to none.

I couldn’t help but think of that little 8 year old me. (Susie, if you’re reading this, I apologize for being the world’s most annoying, high maintenace 8 year old. It’s a wonder you still talk to me, I love you!) But these little boys reminded me of this fire I had, really I always had. I always wanted to be on a stage, prancing about. And because the performers I loved most were women, they were the ones I emulated. I really did want to grow up to be Carol Burnett. Or Jan Brady.

As I watched, I told myself that it was chiefly the sexual element of their dance moves that bothered me most. I don’t want kids to think about sex, I want everyone to stay as innocent as possible. I’m like Mary Jo on Designing Women who, on one memorable episode, said, “Don’t have sex,” under her breath every time she talked to her teenage daughter.

But as I watched these boys, I wondered if I was disturbed also by how feminine they were. I know that when I was that age, I received a lot of messages from a number of different sources, to butch it up. Act like a boy, don’t play with dolls. Don’t put a towel on your head and pretend it’s your long blond hair. My first grade teacher, Miss Bartlesmeyer, punished me for talking to the girls too much by making me go a week of only talking to boys. I got caught at one point whispering to my friend Sheila and received an added week of punishment. (Miss Bartlesmeyer, if YOU’RE reading this, I don’t think you had the best approach to teaching.)

So I have posted this video here, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts. You might have your own reactions when you watch the video. If I am a little uncomfortable about watching this, does it mean I have my own unresolved internalized homophobia?

I do want to say, I think these little boys are amazing. They are talented and confident and inspired and fabulous and I hope the world is always kind to them and tells them they can accomplish anything, because they can.